By Tashinga Wazara, Zimbabwe:
She got into the car and he started driving off. He kept looking across at her, analyzing her whole body from the white tank top she was wearing to her short skirt which exposed her thick thighs. His heart was beating fast in anticipation of the pleasure he was about to receive. She sat in silence, leaving him to create all sorts of images in his head about what it was going to be like.
Five minutes later he stopped at a lodge and they went in. He was acting awkwardly as he paid for the room because he could tell that the receptionist knew exactly what was going on. He had a wedding ring on and she clearly wasn't his wife. The receptionist didn't hide her disapproval. She had seen it many times before but it still made her sick to the stomach. The receptionist also recognized the girl in the white tank top. She had been here before on many occasions, each time with a different man. 'This girl has no soul!' the receptionist would often say to herself each time she saw the girl come in with a different man. She couldn't understand why any woman would sell her body to strangers and give up something so sacred so easily. She just couldn't understand it. The only way the receptionist could rationalize the girl's behavior was to say that she had demons that were controlling her. She couldn't be normal and be a prostitute, it was just not possible.
The man and the girl then proceeded to go to their room. When the man had finished satisfying his lustful desires he pushed her away and while he was dressing he threw a $50 note at her. This time when he looked at her it wasn't with lustful, longing eyes but rather with a look of disgust. It was as if he had just realized that she was a prostitute and he hated the fact that he had slept with her. She didn't care. She picked up the money and left. She knew that he would be back. They always came back.
'This girl has no soul!' Those were the words used by the receptionist to describe this girl and if we asked the girl herself she would probably agree. Her name was Nyasha and she was 24 years old. Life hadn't been so kind to her, especially while growing up. Nyasha's mother had died of tuberculosis when she was 5 years old and she barely remembered what she looked like but she still remembers the night before she died when she held her hand and looked her in the eye and said, 'Nyasha, whatever you do, promise me you'll be a good girl.' She remembers reaching out to her frail mother, hugging her and whispering in her ear as she cried, 'I promise Mom, I will be a good girl'. That was the last time she ever spoke to her mother and after she passed away it was just her father and herself. She had no other family.
Nyasha's father, a construction worker, failed to deal with the death of his wife and would spend every night at the local pub drinking himself into a stupor and coming home drunk every night. Whenever they were together, he was either drunk or he would just sit, quietly, in his own world. Sometimes after his drunken nights, he would come home with strange women who would often stay overnight. Eventually, Nyasha's father's drinking habit got the better of him and two weeks before Nyasha's 13th birthday he died of alcohol poisoning. She was now left all alone and soon the house they were renting was taken. She was left on the streets with nobody to go to.
In the beginning she survived off selling the furniture from the house she and her father used to live in but soon that money ran out and she resorted to begging for food on the streets.
One day as she was busy rummaging through a dust bin outside of a restaurant, she saw a woman whom she recognized. It was one the women her father used to bring home. Her name was Celeste and of all the women her father used to bring home, Celeste was the one who would come more often than the rest. She was always nice to Nyasha, sometimes bringing her gifts. Celeste was a tall, beautiful woman. She looked like a model and Nyasha admired her a lot. When Celeste saw Nyasha she could barely recognize her. She had gone skinny and rugged and her clothes were dirty and torn. Celeste decided to take Nyasha in.
When Nyasha got to Celeste's house she found five other women that were staying with her. Celeste told Nyasha that these girls were working for their rent and if she wanted to stay with her then she would have to pay rent too. Nyasha then asked how she would be able to make money and Celeste told her that she just had to work with the other girls and do what they did. The next day, Celeste got Nyasha's hair done and got her some clothes and at around 7pm they left with the other girls and they went out to one of the nightclubs in town. Nyasha thought they were going to go and work as waitresses or something but when they got to the nightclub they were taken into the back where there were men drinking and playing card games. They sat there the whole night talking to the men, drinking. Nyasha refused to have any alcohol.
At the end of the night the men started picking the different girls and leaving with them and Nyasha wondered where they were being taken. Then one man came to her and said, 'Come with me' and she tried to refuse but Celeste told her to go. 'You'll be fine. Just go with him' she said. Nyasha went with the man and they got to his house and when they got there he offered her a drink but again, she refused. He came and started stroking her hair telling her how much he wanted her then she got scared and ran for the door but he ran after her and locked the door, then he proceeded to force himself on her. She tried to push him away but he was too strong. 'It will be over soon,' he said as he took off his pants and ripped her skirt off. Nyasha froze and started sobbing quietly as the man began defiling her. It was the most painful experience she had ever been through but worse than the pain was her mother's voice that she could hear in her head saying, 'Nyasha, promise me you'll be a good girl' over and over again. When the man was finished he told her to wait for him in his car. A few minutes later he drove her to Celeste's house and left her there.
As she walked into Celeste's house, she was a walking zombie. Her brain could not comprehend what had just happened. How could Celeste do this to her? She felt so dirty and less human. A huge part of her had been taken away. She felt naked, not a physical nakedness but a deeper nakedness, a nakedness of the soul. As soon as she got into the house, all the other girls merely looked at her. They all knew what had just happened but nobody dared say a word to her. She rushed to the bathroom crying and took a shower. It was as if she thought the water would wash away the filthiness that she felt inside. She was in there for hours until Celeste came and knocked on the bathroom door and she came out and they spoke. She was angry at Celeste and asked why she had allowed such a terrible thing to happen to her. Celeste hugged her and told her that she had done well and that she had earned her rent for the month and so she didn't have to do it again for some time. She told her that the first time was always the worst and that the pain would get better. Nyasha wanted to leave because she never wanted to do it again but then at the same time she didn't want to go back to life on the streets. Nothing was worse than life on the streets so she stayed.
A couple of weeks later, that same man came back for her, but this time she didn't cry. She didn't even make a noise. Celeste was right; the pain got better the more you did it. As time went on Nyasha didn't feel guilty anymore. She would always remind herself, this is better than being back on the streets and the more she slept with different men, the less guilt she felt and the less she would hear her mother's voice in her head asking her to promise her she would be a good girl. It was too late for that now. Nyasha was too far gone. The receptionist was right, Nyasha didn't have a soul. But she missed an important point: she didn't lose it; it was taken from her.
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